Starting any exercise program can be a tough task. However, for those suffering from depression, it can be close to impossible. Just getting out of bed is a struggle for some; how are they to get the motivation to climb on a treadmill?
Enter Dr. Jane Baxter and her book, Manage Your Depression Through Exercise. It is a five-week plan to assist depression sufferers in starting an exercise routine and battling through their depression. She is a cheerleader and friend through the book, motivating and encouraging the reader in their journey. With her career in psychotherapy and as a personal trainer, Dr. Baxter tackles depression head-on in her book, incorporating the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of living a healthy lifestyle.
So how is her book any different from other exercise books? Many exercise books and programs can make beginners feel like they are being thrown into the deep end of a pool to learn to swim. Dr. Baxter takes a slower approach; she holds your hand and guides you into the pool using the steps in the shallow end. Do not misconstrue this as coddling or babying. In her first chapter, she clearly states, “excuses are not welcome.” She explains that everyone must take responsibility for his or her own life and actions. Enough blaming and finger pointing; she lays it out and tells readers that if they want a change, it is up to them.
The program begins light in the first week; workouts are only five to 15 minutes a day. She even provides pictures of the exercises. Each week the exercises progress in intensity. Dr. Baxter also includes other forms of exercise other than the ones that she specifically refers to in her book.
What exercise book would be complete without nutrition advice? Rather than go to an extreme, Dr. Baxter advises to “find a diet and exercise plan that works for you.” She encourages readers to “eat like a pig.” What she means is to stop counting calories, worrying about what other people are eating, or feeling ashamed on the scale. Balance is key. Balancing proteins and carbohydrates will help maintain energy at a constant level, rather than riding a rollercoaster of sugar highs and crashes. She addresses the issues of food addiction but there is not a sense of pity in her words. Rather, she is matter-of-fact, explaining the process of food addiction as it relates to the various areas of the brain:
Motivation is a junction of brain signals and those signals depend on reliable messengers and intact nerve pathways. When we look at addiction as a neurological malfunction rather than as a moral failure, it suddenly takes on the form of something that can be fixed.
She encourages readers to look at the role that food plays in their lives. Do you eat when you are bored? Sad? Lonely? Stressed? How do you feel after you eat? Gross? Unhappy? Delirious? There is a chart to fill out when you are hungry, how hungry you are, and how you are feeling emotionally before, during and after you eat.
The most important aspect of Manage Your Depression Through Exercise is the constant attention to readers’ emotions. There are charts for the reader to track their emotional state before, during, and after each workout. Dr. Baxter includes areas to write any distracting thoughts and emotions that may be getting in the way of the workout. There are personal exercises that provoke readers to look at what they want out of their lives and how they express their emotions. Do you want to get out of your depression? Do you vocalize your anger in a healthy manner? Alternatively, do you explode and throw objects?
Each chapter has at least two or three sections to remind readers to pay attention to what they are feeling. Although this sounds redundant, Dr. Baxter addresses various emotions in each section in order to cover the full spectrum by the end of the book. Therefore, regardless if the real issue is loneliness, food addiction, or anger, Dr. Baxter provides questions and suggestions for working through emotional blocks.
I found Dr. Baxter’s book truly motivating. Although I personally do not suffer from depression, I can say that I understand being emotionally wrapped up and unable to motivate myself to move. Within the first few pages of her book, I felt like going for a jog. During my workouts, I remembered many of the things that she discussed. For example, she comments on working through any emotions that come up during a workout because, physiologically, I have turned up a notch by going for a run.
I feel that Manage Your Depression Through Exercise is an excellent book for anyone who has struggled with being overwhelmed emotionally. I have already put my copy in the mail to a friend.
Manage Your Depression Through Exercise: The Motivation You Need to Start and Maintain an Exercise Program
By Jane Baxter, PhD
Sunrise River Press: August 15, 2011
Paperback, 192 pages